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Articles

Kind of Blue and the economy of modal jazz


SAMUEL  BARRETT a1
a1 Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, 11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP E-mail: sjb59@cam.ac.uk

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Abstract

Kind of Blue has been misrepresented by its promoters. The roots in the blues of the best-selling jazz album have repeatedly been obscured in favour of modal features whose associations are less problematic for those coping with the realities of racial injustice. The case that the blues underpins the modal language of the album is made through reconsideration of the claims made for compositional features of individual tracks. Recognition of the transformed blues language that lies at the heart of the album places questions of its significance on a new footing, opening up the mix of musical languages on the album to interpretation within the context of integrationist ideals of the late 1950s. A critical reading of the album against this backdrop leads to the suggestion that the ongoing commercial success of the album can be partly attributed to a retention of integrationist ideals that masks the reality of persistent inequalities in race relations.